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On February 24, 2022, before dawn, our country woke up to rocket attacks on a number of populated areas. This is how the “special military operation for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine” began, which was announced live by the leader of the aggressor state, Vladimir Putin.
The unprovoked military aggression, it would seem, turned even its most ardent Ukrainian sympathizers away from Russia. Even the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UPC MP), which is de facto a part of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), Metropolitan Onufry, who had previously demonstrated odious actions against Ukraine and its people, such as statements that that the Holodomor is “God’s warning” and generally “Katyuz was deserved” (2008) , the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is a “civil war”  (2015), Crimea occupied by Russia “fell away by itself” (2016)  ] etc.
On the day of the beginning of the destruction of Ukrainian cities by Russian shells, Onufriy issued as many as two appeals to the clergy and the flock, in which he directly acknowledged Russian aggression, called to pray strongly for Ukraine and its army and to forget mutual quarrels and misunderstandings, “unite with love for God and to our Motherland”. He also invoked God’s blessing on the soldiers who are defending the integrity of Ukraine, and expressed his “special love and support” to them – something he had not done before, in particular, refusing to stand up in 2015 during the commemoration in the Verkhovna Rada of the heroes who died in the eastern front. Today, Onufry appealed to Putin to immediately stop the “fratricidal” war between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, who “came out of the Dnipro baptismal font”: the war between them, according to the head of the UOC MP, is “a repetition of the sin of Cain, who out of envy killed his own brother” and “has no justification either with God or with people”. 
In principle, one could ask the head of the Ukrainian branch of the Russian Church – where has he been for the past 8 years, when his bishops in the Russian-occupied Crimea and the Russian Orthodox Church happily and intensively blessed the local “authorities” for “good deeds” and the Russian military contingent for “Cain’s war”, conducting his constant “spiritual feeding” and consecrating weapons. However, frankly speaking, the recent performance was unexpected. Although in reality it was not necessary to expect anything else: supporting an aggressor waging a war against your state is a crime on the verge of at least moral and reputational suicide. Nevertheless, it is not completely clear what motivated Onufriy – a belated realization of his involvement with Ukraine, and not with the abstract “fatherland”, or the banal fear of losing his flock, which already in the past years has repeatedly asked the question why it has to pray to the “saint of the Russian land” for the “victory of Russian weapons” over their country.
Within a few days of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, the dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church of Ukraine launched a movement of a kind of public disobedience to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, for whom prayers were offered as “our great father and our mistress” until recently. Thus, on the website of the Sumy Diocese, an appeal of the clergy to Metropolitan Evlogiy appeared on the website of the Sumy Diocese, which spoke about the support of Metropolitan Onufriy, the Ukrainian government and the military, and about stopping the mention of Cyril’s name in prayer at the request of the congregation. “The Sumy Diocese is a border diocese, and therefore one of the most terrible strikes of the Russian army, on residential quarters, fell on its territory. Innocent civilians die. At the same time, we are forced to admit with particular sadness that in these terrible days, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia did not in any way condemn the aggressive actions of the Russian authorities,” the text read. Metropolitan Yevlohiy supported this appeal. A similar position of the clergy and believers was supported by Archbishop Nafanail of Volyn and Lutsk, Metropolitans of Vinnytsia and Barsonofiy, Meletii of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, Feodor of Mukachevo, Feodor of Kamianets-Podilskyi and Horodotsky and Nikodym of Zhytomyr and Novograd-Volyn, who declared that “the Ukrainian church can no longer have anything to do with the occupying country”. The clergy of the Ivano-Frankivsk eparchy informed its Metropolitan Seraphim about the suspension of Patriarch Kirill at all divine services, but the bishop’s position on this issue is still unknown. Kirill was urged to turn to Putin with a request to stop the war even in such an outpost of the “Russian world” in Ukraine as the Pochaiv Lavra. A similar movement is observed in other dioceses of the UOC MP, but so far without official confirmation.
Cyril did not hesitate to react to the actions of Metropolitan Yevlohiy – not personally, however, but through the head of the administrative secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Fom of Odintsovsky and Krasnogorsk, who announced the content of the resolution imposed by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church on the report of the Sumy bishop. Expressing sympathy for the decision of the Sumy bishop, the Moscow patriarch threatened: “Stopping the commemoration of the head of the church not because of a mistake or error in creed or canons, but because of non-compliance with one or another political views and preferences is a schism, for which everyone who commits it will answer to by God, and not only in the future, but also in the present”.
From the point of view of the famous theologian, Archimandrite Kirill Hovorun, as long as Metropolitan Onufriy commemorates Patriarch Kirill, all who commemorate Onufriy, according to canon law, are subordinate to Kirill. Therefore, the only canonical way to break with the Moscow Patriarchate is to return to full communication with world Orthodoxy together with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). According to the spokesman of this church, Archbishop Evstratius, the non-commemoration of Patriarch Kirill in itself cannot be considered a great achievement, since the permission not to commemorate him has previously existed where circumstances required it for the UOC MP, and the reasons for non-commemoration were usually tied to Kirill’s personal position , and not to the essence of the problem, which consists in the institutional subordination of the Russian Orthodox Church. From the canonical point of view, the most important refusal to commemorate Cyril will be when Metropolitan Onufriy announces it, otherwise failure to commemorate Cyril will not even mean a formal break with him and the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, even if the UOC MP breaks ties with the Russian Orthodox Church and formalizes self-proclaimed or even received autocephaly from Moscow, it will not be recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate or other local churches.
In principle, there is nothing surprising in the non-commemoration of the Moscow Patriarch in some parishes of the UOC MP. In some places, this practice has existed for a long time – as, for example, in the Volodymyr-Volyn diocese. It is worth mentioning that during the Russian attack on Ukraine from Crimea and Donbass in 2014, the now late Metropolitan Sophrony of Cherkasy and Kaniv became the only bishop of the UOC MP who openly called Russian aggression a crime against Ukraine and blessed his congregation not to commemorate the Russian patriarch. Currently, the clergy of the Cherkasy Diocese believes that not remembering Cyril is not enough – it is necessary to seek the severance of all relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, the restoration of church communication with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other local Orthodox churches, an open dialogue with the OCU, and the search for a way out of the deep crisis into which the Russian patriarch has driven world Orthodoxy I.  The clergy of the Lviv Diocese appealed to Metropolitan Filaret of Lviv and Halytskyi with a request to convene a bishops’ council of the UOC MP and to make a decision at it to withdraw from the Russian Orthodox Church and declare autocephaly; clerics of the Rivne Diocese of the UOC MP sent a similar request to Bishop Pymen of Rivne and Ostroh. On March 1, at a meeting of the diocesan council, Metropolitan Volodymyr-Volynskyi and Kovelskyi Volodymyr fully supported the request of representatives of the diocese for an urgent appeal to Metropolitan Onufriy regarding the resolution of the “long overdue” issue of the UOC MP acquiring the status of “full autocephaly”.
The dioceses of the UOC MP operating in Crimea occupied by Russia found themselves in an ambiguous situation. Back in 2014, they not only cooperated with the occupation regime, but also in some places contributed to its establishment: in particular, some Crimean churches during the Russian operation to occupy the peninsula provided shelter to employees of the Russian special services who arrived under the guise of “pilgrims”. After the occupation of Crimea, the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP received at its disposal two captured UOC temples of the Kyiv Patriarchate, located on the territories of the military units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Sevastopol and the Simferopol district. In this and two other Crimean dioceses of the UOC MP, departments were created to cooperate with the occupation forces and military structures. In addition, clerics of dioceses participate in the education of Crimean children and youth in the spirit of “citizens of the fatherland”, including with the involvement of the military aspect.
On February 28, 2022, the members of the Holy Synod of the UOC MP in their appeal informed the defenders of Ukraine that they respect them and pray for them, testified to support for the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and also appealed to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill with a request to say at least something on the topic of “termination” fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian soil and to call on the leadership of the aggressor state to immediately stop hostilities that “already threaten to turn into a world war”; members of the synod asked Putin himself and the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, “to do everything possible to put an end to the sin of armed confrontation between our two brotherly peoples and to start the negotiation process”. The list of signatories is unknown, so one can only guess whether Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea, who is a permanent member of the synod, was among them.
On March 2, the Kyiv Metropolitanate of the UOC MP sent a circular to all ruling bishops regarding the holding of prayers for the establishment of peace in Ukraine on March 4 at 12:00 in all churches and monasteries. The Simferopol and Crimean and Dzhankoy dioceses did not ignore this order (in Feodosia in these dark days, it was as if they had put a cow in their mouth) – but the former took up its implementation in a rather specific way. Thus, the text of the prayer for Ukraine, proposed for reading by priests and believers, was posted on the website of the diocese, located in the Russian domain zone. We present it in full.
“Almighty God, Lord and Helper of all creation, fill everything with Your majesty and sustain with Your power. We come to You, our Great-gifted Lord, with a broken heart and fervent prayer for the country of Ukraine, torn by strife and unrest.
Merciful and Almighty, don’t be angry to the end, Lord! Be merciful to us, Your Church prays to You, presenting You as the leader and the author of the salvation of our Jesus Christ. Strengthen with Your power the faithful people in the country of the Ukrainians, and enlighten the eyes of those who are misled with Your divine light, so that they understand Your truth, softening their hardening, quell the enmity and disorder in the country and the peaceful people of its exaltation, so that all may know You, our Lord and Savior. Do not turn away Your face from us, Lord, give us the joy of Your salvation. Remember the mercy that you showed as our father, transfer your anger to mercy and give your help to the Ukrainian people in their sorrow.
Pray to the Russian Church, presenting to You the intercession of all the saints who have shone in it, to the Most Holy Mother of God and the Virgin Mary, who covered and interceded our country for years. Warm our hearts with the warmth of Your grace, confirm our will in Your will, and as it was ancient, so also now, Your all-holy name, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, will be glorified forever and ever. Amen.”
The text of this prayer was not without moments that definitely attract attention. First, the Crimean Diocese made it clear that it prays as the “Russian Church”. Secondly, it seemed that the situation in Ukraine was characterized as “dissensions and strife” – that is, “discords and troubles” that are tearing the country apart. In addition, the prayer contained a request to God to “soften the harshness” (soften the cruelty) of some unknown “misguided” – apparently, those who do not believe in “Russian peace”.
The resource “Krym.Realii” drew attention to these moments. After the announcement of prayers with this prayer text was posted, the page was simply removed from the website of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese – however, it was saved in the Google cache, so it was possible to additionally archive it and take a screenshot.
In addition, “Krym.Realiya” noted that this text of the prayer has been used in the Russian Orthodox Church since the Russian occupation of Crimea. Indeed, for the first time this prayer “for peace in Ukraine” with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill was offered in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 23, 2014, during the reading of the Gospel about the Last Judgment; Cyril himself and the priests and parishioners present said this prayer on their knees. In her text, the events of the Revolution of Dignity were obviously interpreted as “dissensions and disturbances”. Cyril repeated this prayer, also on his knees, on the eve of Easter, April 19, 2014, but then he addressed his flock with the words: “Politically, Ukraine is a country abroad, but spiritually and historically, this has never happened. We are one people before God, we profess one Orthodox faith, no matter how much one would like to say that the Ukrainian people also profess other faiths. We affirm and will affirm that Ukraine, organically connected with Holy Russia, is an Orthodox country. Today we must pray for the people of Russia living in Ukraine, so that the Lord … will not allow, under any circumstances, mutual enmity both within the Ukrainian state and in the relations between Ukraine and Russia, so that he will stop the plans of those who would like to use political means or forceful pressure to tear apart Holy Russia … and that never and under no circumstances could the enemy of the human race sow the seeds of discord within both Ukraine and the entire historical Holy Russia”. We remind you: at that time, Russia was already actually occupying the Crimean Peninsula and ORDLO.
Patriarch Kirill also recited the mentioned prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow on February 27, 2022 – during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on the orders of the head of the aggressor state, Vladimir Putin. The service took place again on the date on which the Russian Orthodox Church, apparently, liked to bless the “crusades” of its state – on the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church called on the faithful to pray not only for Metropolitan Onufry and the UOC MP, but also for peace “on the territory of historical Russia, so that our church preserves its unity, so that our people preserve the strong bonds of brotherhood and unity formed by joint baptism and more than 1,000 a long tradition of common spiritual life”. Cyril also asked God to protect “the Russian land, our Fatherland, our Church”.
At the same time, on February 27, Bishop Kalinik of the Bakhchisarai UOC MP led a liturgy in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Simferopol, during which special requests for peace in Ukraine were made. At the end of the service, the bishop addressed the faithful with a sermon in which, among other things, the following was said: “These are days of great tragedy, when fraternal nations kill each other, when Christian blood is spilled, when a Christian raises a weapon against a Christian. There is no justification for any war, but there is also an end to any injustice. Hear my appeal: at this time do not have cruel hearts as much as possible! Even if we do not fully understand what is happening, we must not allow the enemy of the human race, Satan, to make us so cruel that this cruelty is transmitted through our children.”
It would seem like rational appeals, true words. But only if you don’t take into account who says them. During the Russian occupation of Crimea, the current vicar of the Diocese of Simferopol and Crimea, Bishop Kalinik, not only conducted anti-Ukrainian agitation on the peninsula, but also allowed the “self-defense of Crimea” to locate a weapons depot on the territory of the Church of John the Baptist in the village of Uyutne, Saksky district, where he was the abbot since 2008. For his work “for the glory of the motherland” he was awarded: in 2014 – the medal “For the protection of Crimea” and an honorary certificate from “the head of the People’s Militia of the Republic of Kazakhstan” Mykhailo Sheremet for “active assistance to the forces of resistance to neo-Nazism”, in 2015 in 2017 – the right to wear the second cross from the head of the UOC MP Metropolitan Onufriy, in 2017 – the Order of St. Volodymyr III degree from him, as well as the jubilee medal of the Russian Orthodox Church from Patriarch Kirill in honor of the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the patriarchate in this church, and in 2018 – the Order of St. Volodymyr, II degree, again from Metropolitan Onufriy. On January 29, 2016, at the meeting of the Synod of the UOC MP in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, at that time Archimandrite Kalinik was appointed vicar of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese with the title “Bishop of Bakhchisarai” with the clarification: “The place of marriage and ordination shall be left to the discretion of Metropolitan Onufry”. This appointment caused a significant public outcry, considering the “track record” of the candidate. In less than a month, the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP stated that Archimandrite Kalinik “did not take part in either political or campaigning activities,” and the information about the warehouse of weapons on the territory of the temple in Uyutny “does not correspond to reality.” The episcopal ordination of Archimandrite Kalinik took place almost 4 years after his appointment – in December 2019; at the same time, it was probably planned to be classified, since information about this event appeared on the resources of the UOC MP only after a public and media response, and the place of ordination was chosen for some reason in Nizhyn, Chernihiv region.
But let’s return to the liturgical texts used by the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP. The same text from the Moscow Patriarch was posted on the website of the Sevastopol deaconry under the title “Prayer for Peace” without any explanation, as on the website of the diocese, but after an outcry in the media, it was replaced with another one. We also quote this text in its entirety.
“Merciful Lord, Jesus Christ, our God, through the prayers of the All-Pure Lady of our Mother of God and the Virgin Mary, the holy co-apostles of Grand Duke Vladimir and Grand Duchess Olga, the holy New Martyrs and confessors of our Church, our venerable and god-bearing fathers Anthony and Theodosius, the Kiev-Pechersk miracle workers , Sergius, Abbot of Radonezh, Job of Pochaevsky, Seraphim of Sarov and all the saints, make our prayer favorable for the Church and for all Your people.
Here are the single baptismal font, from which, under the holy Prince Vladimir, we, Your children, receive grace, – confirm the spirit of brotherly love and peace in our hearts forever!
And the language of foreign tribes, those who want to fight and those who are mobilizing for Holy Russia – to stop and overthrow their plans.
By Your grace, guide those who hold power to all good, confirm the warriors in Your commandments, bring the bloodless into their homes, give the hungry drink, strengthen and heal the sick and suffering, give hope and comfort to those who are in confusion and sorrow, and comfort the slain – forgiveness of sins and blessed repose of creation.
Fill us with faith, hope and love in You, so that in all our countries we will confess You, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with Your Eternal Father, Your Most Holy Good and Life-Giving Spirit forever and ever with one mouth and one heart. Amen.”
Frankly speaking, with the “spirit of fraternal love and peace” among comrades who are eager to share with us the “grace from the single font of baptism for the holy prince Volodymyr”, so far it is not working out, to put it mildly. And the passage about “foreigners who want war and arm themselves against Holy Russia” is perceived more as self-criticism. The author of this prayer is unknown, but it was approved by the Moscow Patriarch Kirill on March 3, 2022. Neither this nor the previous texts of prayers, at least in the public media space, are submitted to practice in the UOC MP.
On March 4, in the St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Chersonesos, the deacon of the Sevastopol District of the UOC MP, Archpriest Serhiy Khalyuta, led a prayer for peace in Ukraine, at the end of which he addressed the faithful with a peace-making sermon, which did not contain his usual tirades about “Holy Russia”, ” protection of our great Fatherland”, “our three-united Russian people”, “our Russian state”, “Christ-loving Russian army”, “victory of Russian weapons”, “Russian spirit”, “gathering of Russian lands” and other pathetic things. On March 6, the same cathedral announced a prayer for “increasing love in the world”. In the meantime, prayers for peace in Ukraine were sent to a number of Sevastopol churches – and they were often led by those priests who bless the soldiers of the occupation army and consecrate their weapons and equipment. In addition, some of these services were attended by the same soldiers, which looked grotesque. Considering the small number of parishioners present at these prayers (visually – from one person to a couple of dozen at most), one gets the impression that they were held purely for a photo report in front of the church leadership.
In mid-March, the Sevastopol bishopric of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church unequivocally stated that their military clergy, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, has been continuously holding meetings with Russian servicemen in the occupied Crimea, “strengthening their fighting spirit and maintaining the right motivation.” Thus, on March 14, the archpriest of the Sevastopol deaconry of the UOC MP, Vasyl Gumarov, who is also the “assistant” of the head of the department for working with religious servicemen of the military-political department of the occupying Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, held a planned conversation with servicemen on the topic “Blessed Peacemakers.”
On March 18, Archpriest Serhiy Polivtsev, “assistant to the commander of the Crimean Naval Base of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation for work with religious servicemen”, within the framework of regular visits by the military clergy of the Sevastopol Chaplaincy of the UOC MP to wounded Russian contractors who are in the 1472nd Naval Clinical Hospital in occupied Sevastopol, made such a visit, after which he declared that all soldiers “correctly understand their role in a special military operation, are convinced of the rightness and sanctity of their cause, want to return to the army and compete for victory.”
At the beginning of March, the Diocese of Simferopol and Crimea, with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, took part in the propaganda campaign of Russia, handing over 5 tons of “humanitarian aid” collected by parishioners of churches and monasteries to the residents of the regions of the Kherson region occupied by the Russian army – who sent the cargo that arrived in the already legendary direction of the Russian warship. It is noteworthy that the occupiers do not allow humanitarian aid from the regions of Ukraine and international partners to be delivered to the region.
All this shows how uncomfortable it is for the Crimean dioceses of the UOC MP to be torn between the “canonical twine” between the Kyiv Metropolitanate, to which they are subject “de jure”, and the Moscow Patriarchate, to which they are subject “de facto”. At the level of information messages from the mentioned cells, there is a certain change not only in rhetoric, but also in the behavioral model: if earlier the electronic resources of dioceses and deacons simply abounded with declarations of loyalty to the Russian government and its regional puppets and evidence of cooperation with the occupying forces and military contingents, now since the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine, attention has been focused purely on social, at most, educational projects.
In response to the March 3 appeal of the Metropolitan of the Simferopol and Crimean OCU Klyment to the mothers of Russian soldiers with a request to take their living and dead children from Ukraine, the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP stated that he had nothing to do with the activities of this diocese or The Russian Orthodox Church (which is quite obvious) is therefore “not the hierarch of the recognized canonical jurisdiction”, the status of which the Russian Orthodox Church bestows exclusively on itself. Thus, the Crimean Panots finally showed their position. However, they are still “between two fires”: to say something contrary to Kyiv – the “direct leadership” will not understand, to deny Moscow – it is more expensive. Moreover, Putin recently signed a law on criminal liability for “public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the Russian army for the purpose of protecting the interests of the state and maintaining international peace and security,” as well as for “public calls to prevent the use of the Russian army for this purpose.”  In other words: you oppose the Russian “special operation to force Ukraine to peace” – welcome to the bunks. In Russia itself, there is already at least one precedent of prosecuting a clergyman for preaching against the murder of Ukrainian “brothers and sisters in Christ”.
Probably, more than one surprise was prepared for the clergy of the Crimean dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate by the “fatherland”, for which they had been praying for years and which they called to their territory. And it seems that “colleagues” in mainland Ukraine currently have no desire to repeat their mistakes.
Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.